The Fluidity of Time

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli

Time is such a funny thing, isn’t it?

I’ve been recently plotting out the summer schedule for the kids—who is taking off which week to be with them, which weeks they get to have adventures with their grandparents, which weeks they are going to this camp or that, which weeks we’re planning summer-frolicky adventures with friends or cousins, which events we are trying to attend, and of course, when will Marlowe be hosting her fifth annual summer camp.

When I started the conversations with all the players involved in this mighty quest, it seemed like “Oh, we have plenty of time to work everything in, solidify that date, turn in that registration.”  But that sentiment quickly turned into one more aptly stated as “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

How is summer this short?

How is that thing sold out already?

It’s basically August already!  I need to figure out what clothes still fit them so they are ready to go back to school!!!

But when will we make time for….   ??!!

What on earth am I going to do with them during….  ???

How will I possibly have time to get xx done, with all of this going on???


All of that can feel like time. And time that we don’t have. Time that we’re being robbed of, or that’s working against us.

But that’s not time at all.  That’s just scheduling. That’s the map….   And as one of my favorite sayings goes, “The map is not the territory.”

Because, when we get a phone call about a loved one—suddenly we have time for whatever is needed.  Because that’s the only important thing.

Or, when we find ourselves lost in a lazy stroll outside or an energizing creative task or a moment of complete contentment—well, time just kind of disappears altogether, doesn’t it?

Or when an urgent deadline emerges at work, other things that were previously the most urgent get re-prioritized or organized, to fit into a new reality.

We trick ourselves with this notion of time, don’t we? “If I had more time, I’d surely….”

When the truth, at least for me, is:  if you give me six months to complete a thing, it will take me six months to complete it.  But if you give me one week to complete that thing, I’ll probably get it done in a week. What does that say about our relationship with time?

For sure, time is an important tool to make sure I get the kids to school in time for the first bell to ring, or that I show up for that appointment at the previously designated time. Time, in that sense, is a useful marker to help guide the shape of my day, and make sure I’m not that jerk that always blows off meetings and forgets family gatherings.

But time in the “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! There’s just NOT ENOUGH TIME!!!” way of thinking…. well, I’m starting to wonder how helpful that is whatsoever. Because when we get in that mindset we can start to spin our wheels, and walk in circles, and talk to ourselves, and re-write our lists, and triple check our calendars—which, quite frankly, leads to nothing more than a whole lot of anxiety and, ironically, a whole lot of wasted time—time that you would quite honestly have been better off spending by contemplating the shape of a flower or noticing the buildings that you walk past every single day.  

So make a map. It’s probably useful to show up where you’re expected to.

But don’t prioritize the map over the territory.

The territory is where your life is, and your life is, and will always be, fluid, like a dance. Accept the invitation to dance. There’s enough time for everything that’s important.

How can you dance with time today?


Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.